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Monday, January 17, 2011

Review: Costume Quest (PSN)

Tim Schafer and his team at Double Fine Productions have turned into something of a Tim Burton of the games industry. Relentlessly youthful in vision, games like Psychonauts and Costume Quest tap into the fond memories of childhood we all have, but twist them in a way only adults can appreciate.


Getting told you're desparate hurts

Costume Quest wraps all the fun of Halloween - the candy hunts, the bright, cheerful costumes, and a stylised American suburb; with kidnapping and goblins. It's thoroughly demented, but also wonderful - it's rare we see a game so charming and filled with personality.

In the game, your character (boy or girl) will be out on a mission to rescue his/ her sibling. In this quest, you'll be knocking on doors asking for candy and fighting goblins in a suburban block of homes, a shopping mall, and a carnival. Each of those three environments will produce a range of sub-quests to complete, costumes to collect, and battle-stickers to augment your fighting powers (paid for with candy, naturally).


Channeling the transformers, here

The costumes are the most critical part, as wearing those will turn you into a giant creature of destruction whenever a battle starts. Wear a robot costume, turn into a giant robot. Wear a French fries costume, turn into a evil-looking spider/ fries monster. Each of those costumes provides a different set of special abilities (the Statue of Liberty heals, the knight protects the others with his shield), and coupled with the varied abilities of the battle stamps, there's a lot of customisation to be had here.

Unfortunately the battle system doesn't quite keep up. Like Faery: Legends of Avalon, the developers clearly tried to minimise grinding in favour of an easy-to-digest game flow. There's no random encounters, there's no real need to go hunting for enemies because the level cap is easy to reach before the game's end, and when you find yourself in a battle, there's virtually no resistance to talk of. It won't take long to realise the customisation is essentially superficial, as any combination is a winner, and at that point the desire to collect everything diminishes greatly.


Successfully cast a swirly white cloud!

Of a more substantial concern is the variety of enemies. Specifically, the lack thereof. There's a couple of different types of goblin that are palette-swapped to create more powerful breeds, and a handful of supplemental baddies, which don't differ in tactics to the goblins in any meaningful way. The bosses are thoroughly unimpressive, with the exception of the final enemy, which is both the most challenging battle and a suitable finish to the game.

Unlike Faery, however, Costume Quest's battles flow quickly, and are visually amusing. Due to the brevity of the game (it's easily over in a weekend), nothing outstays its welcome, or even hangs around long enough for smiles to become frowns.

For the committed, there is some DLC to add more adventure to the game, although that bumps the asking price for the game up significantly. In the end, Costume Quest does what it does best as a small, cheap, downloadable game - as bite-sized RPG it's impossibly charming, relaxed stuff. We love it for that, but we're still waiting for the PSN's first epic RPG.

Review: Costume Quest (PSN)
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